Located on the so-called “lamb skewer street” of the Konkuk University area, Bongmallu is a quite popular hot pot eatery especially for Seoul’s Chinese and Korean-Chinese community. Even before 6pm, most seats are taken by its patrons waiting for their dinner service.
What sets Bongmallu apart from the rest of the Chinese eateries in the area is the excellent value for money that it offers. Laid out in a buffet setting, an array of ingredients ranging from lamb, beef and seafood to vegetables is available along with several side dishes including bak choy and mushroom stir-fry, sweet and sour pork (guo bao rou) and yangbaechu (green “western cabbage”) kimchi. The star of the meal is, of course, the hot pot which is prepared in two types of broth, “red” and “white.” The spicy “red” broth was so spicy it made me sneeze at first, but its rich and pleasantly tangy flavors made me keep going. My recommendation is to try the “white” broth first as it may taste a bit bland after tasting all the strong spices in the “red” soup. Using the spread of condiments and chopped vegetables which includes sesame seeds, minced garlic, peanuts, coriander and scallions, everyone in the restaurant creates their own dipping sauce. The key is to make it a bit thick and creamy with especially generous amounts of minced garlic, pepper oil, coriander and scallions. The nutty, spicy and sweet sauce is quite addictive.
There are two floors of dining spaces. The colorful view of Chinese signs densely spread out under the lucid blue sky offered on the top floor is a nice complementary to the authentically Chinese flavors served at Bongmallu.